The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Barnhart's burning questions for Week 12

24 days ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network

This much we know: There are four Saturdays left in the 2019 regular season and five of the top 12 teams (Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Auburn) in the College Football Playoff rankings call the SEC home.

What does it mean?

It means that we are set up for one of the best finishes to a season that we have had in a long, long time.

It means that the SEC has a legitimate shot of getting two teams in the CFP and being well represented in the New Year's Six bowl games. It also means there is a lot of work to be done.

Here are our Five Burning Questions about SEC football for Week 12:

Georgia at Auburn: Does either team get to 20 points?

Maybe one. But not both.

This, my friends, is going to be one of the better defensive struggles we have seen in a long, long time. Consider these numbers:

--Georgia (8-1, 5-1 SEC) is second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 10.1 points per game. Georgia is the ONLY team in the FBS that has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season. Only two teams in SEC history (Tennessee in 1939, Ole Miss in 1963) have gone an entire season without giving up a rushing touchdown.

--Auburn (7-2, 4-2) has the best defensive front in college football and it has kept the Tigers in every single game they have played this season. Auburn held LSU's explosive offense, which averages 46.7 points per game, to only 23 points in a 23-20 loss at Baton Rouge on Oct. 26.

Auburn is one of only six teams in the country that has given up 24 points OR FEWER in every game.

This is going to be a fun, old timey football game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

How much does Tua play against Mississippi State?

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was a warrior last week as he threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns against LSU while playing on a tender ankle.

So now Alabama (8-1, 5-1), at No. 5 in the CFP rankings, needs to win out against Mississippi State, Western Carolina and Auburn to remain in the discussion for a playoff spot.

So how does Coach Nick Saban handle Tua on Saturday in Starkville?

He did not practice on Monday and by Wednesday Saban said his status for Mississippi State (4-5, 2-4) might again be a "game-time decision."

So Mac Jones could get his second start for Alabama. In his previous start Alabama beat Arkansas 48-7. Alabama, which lost to No. 1 LSU (46-41) last week, needs to finish 11-1 and get some help in order to have a chance to make the CFP.

Does Kelly Bryant come back for Missouri? And if he does do the Tigers have a shot at home against Florida?

In the preseason a bunch of us looked at Missouri's schedule and thought it would be possible for the Tigers to be 8-0 when they played at Georgia on Nov. 9.

But after winning five straight, Missouri (5-4, 2-3) has lost three consecutive games. Its offense has struggled, scoring only 21 points in those three losses.

Last week Bryant, the transfer quarterback from Clemson, could not go at Georgia because of a bad hamstring. The Tigers lost 27-0.

Bryant is expected to return against Florida (8-2, 5-2) on Saturday at Faurot Field. A couple of talking points:

--A year ago Missouri went to The Swamp and just dominated Florida 38-17. That Florida team went on to win 10 games.

--Mathematically, Florida is still in the race for the SEC East. If the Gators win Saturday they will finish 6-2 in the conference. If Georgia loses its final two SEC games against Auburn (on the road) and Texas A&M (at home), the Gators would go to Atlanta.

Will No. 1 LSU have a letdown at Ole Miss?

I really don't think so and here's why:

--LSU (9-0, 5-0) knows that it needs to keep winning and winning impressively to stay at No. 1 in the CFP rankings. That's important because the No. 1 seed in the playoffs gets to play closest to home in the semifinals. That means a No. 1 LSU would play at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The other semifinal will be held at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Az.

--I believe LSU quarterback Joe Burrow all but locked up the Heisman Trophy last week when he completed 31 of 39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns against Alabama. He is still No. 2 nationally with 355 yards passing per game. He will play against an Ole Miss defense that is 117th (out of 130) nationally in yards passing allowed per game (274.2).

He could put a hammerlock on the Heisman with a big game against Ole Miss.

South Carolina needs a break. Could the Gamecocks possibly get it at Texas A&M?

Don't think so.

Since going to Athens and upsetting Georgia on Oct. 12, South Carolina (4-6, 3-4) has lost three of its last four games.

And if South Carolina falls at College Station on Saturday, its bowl chances are over. Then the Gamecocks close out the 2019 season with a home game against No. 3 Clemson. That is not what Muschamp and South Carolina fans expected this season.

It also doesn't help South Carolina that the Aggies (6-3, 3-2) are playing their best football of the season, having won three straight and four of their last five.

But here's the deal: Texas A&M needs to pick up its seventh win on Saturday because the Aggies close the regular season with two road games at No. 4 Georgia and No. 1 LSU. Whoa Boy.